Supreme Court declines Massey appeal

CHARLESTON - The state Supreme Court recently decided not to hear Massey Energy's appeal in a lawsuit filed over the death of two miners.

On Sept. 13, Supreme Court Justices voted 4-0, with Chief Justice Robin Davis abstaining, not to hear the appeal of a decision made by Boone Circuit Judge Jay Hoke.

Hoke's decision held that state law does allow cases like the one filed by the families of William Birchfield and Rodney Sheets, two miners crushed by a 126-ton truck in 2003 while working for Independence.

That company is a Massey subsidiary, and the families' case against Massey argued that it was responsible for confirming that Independence employees had been trained properly.

Hoke agreed, though Massey did not. However, the Supreme Court did not care to hear its arguments.

In August, Massey CEO Don Blankenship sued the Supreme Court, saying previous statements made by Justice Larry Starcher proved that he could not be impartial when it came to dealing with Massey-related cases.

Massey contends that Starcher has shown a strong personal bias against the company. In this matter, though, no one voted in favor of the coal giant.

Massey attorney A.L. Emch told the Court that "If a member of the corporate family can be held liable under a negligence standard for an accident that happens to an employee of a different member of that corporate family because of the sharing of safety information, that effort will be chilled."

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